Hired to be Liberty University’s executive vice president of management efficiencies and diversity and claiming he was fired four months later, Kelvin Edwards is suing the university for more than $8 million and accusing it of racial discrimination.
Edwards, previously a wide receiver with LU and the NFL, was hired last July into a position that was created for him, he claimed in a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court.
The hire came amid a number of resignations by Black LU employees and three Black student-athletes transferring out, prompted in large part by tweets from then-president Jerry Falwell Jr. that were decried as racist and for which he later apologized.
The university offered Edwards a $250,000 annual salary plus a $1,500 monthly vehicle allowance, scholarships for him and his family and “construction of a new home for Mr. Edwards and his family on Liberty Mountain,” according to the lawsuit. To take the position, he agreed to move his family from Texas, where he operated a car dealership and his wife worked as a teacher, since he said the university committed to keeping him on for at least 10 years or until his retirement.
In the new role, Edwards was to “advise on management and development of Liberty’s policies, staffing, programs, and administration; assess and enhance efficiencies across Liberty’s operations; and develop strategies to support Liberty’s diversity and inclusion efforts,” the lawsuit states.
LU brought back former coach Turner Gill for a similar diversity-focused executive role around the same time. Gill’s name and image no longer appeared on a listing of the university’s executive leadership on its website by December, according to internet archives. Shon Muldrow has held a position similar to Gill’s since then.
LU hired Edwards on July 1 and “publicly touted” it the following month, according to the lawsuit. Falwell resigned as president and chancellor in late August, after which Jerry Prevo took his place as interim president.
At the beginning of September, Prevo told Edwards he “did not recall approving this job description,” the lawsuit states, going a step further to claim he “did not believe in diversity efforts based at Liberty.”
“In fact, during that same time frame, Mr. Edwards heard Prevo comment that there were ‘too many people’ in diversity and inclusion,” it states.
Prevo met with Edwards at the end of the month to tell him he’d be switched over to handling “efficiency management” under Gill, according to the lawsuit, though Prevo didn’t specify those duties and said Edwards “would be doing ‘whatever [Turner Gill] is doing.’” Though Edwards would be taking a pay cut, he told Prevo he “wanted to be a part of Liberty” and waited for more information.
Without any further discussion about the role, Prevo fired him Oct. 2, the lawsuit states, taking on the efficiency management duties himself.
In his lawsuit, Edwards claimed he suffered racial discrimination under three different sections of law, as well as a breach of oral contract. He’s demanding upwards of $8.35 million total.
In a statement, LU said it “rejects the claims of Kelvin Edwards and will prove them false through the legal process.”
Prevo determined hiring Edwards to be a mistake after becoming acting president and tried unsuccessfully to find him a position he was qualified for, according to the statement.
Edwards insisted on keeping the role with the promised compensation and refused the university’s offer to compensate his return to Texas, among other things, then demanded five years’ salary “with no work,” LU said.
Calls to Edwards’ attorney were not returned as of press time.